Pooling Prep

To say these are trying times is more than just an understatement. It's nearly laughable. Between wondering where all the toilet paper went and attempting to work from home (if you're lucky) while getting your kids to do something beyond look at screens (again, if you're lucky), there's that ever-nagging question that somehow doesn't manage to take a break even during the throes of a global pandemic. Is there any way to streamline all this cooking?

A great way to do just that is to plan ahead a bit and choose a combination of recipes that all use one or more ingredients in a similar way. Then, when you get started, instead of chopping a half cup of onions each day, just chop one big onion and use it over the course of a few days. Or you can shred vegetables all at the same time or cut up a big batch of chicken for several meals. You get the idea. It's like taking the efficiency of making big meals and stretching it out for a few days to give yourself some variety. This can be particularly helpful for single folks or small families looking to avoid an eternity of the same chili, day after day.

And when it comes to planning your prep, everything from salads to soups and more are on the table. Just maybe not all at once! And remember that you can do this for any ingredients that don't degrade quickly. Just avoid prepping avocados and potatoes early! To get you started or help refresh your menu options, here are 10 great recipes from our archives (and remember you can always search our decades of content too) that can be combined to pool your prep. Most can be multiplied or divided to suit your meal needs too!

A trio of recipes calling for chopping onions:

Crab Cakes with Cucumber Relish

  • 8 oz. lump crabmeat, picked through, shells removed (canned, drained lump crabmeat will also work)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red or yellow onion
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning or other seafood seasoning
  • ¼ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large cucumber, diced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • ⅓ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons canola oil
  • Sour cream, for serving

Combine the crabmeat, chopped onion, parsley, mustard, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and seafood seasoning to form a wet mixture. Add the shredded cheddar, mayonnaise, breadcrumbs, and egg; mix together gently but thoroughly.

Shape the crab cake mixture into patties using an ice cream scoop to help measure and form the mixture. Cover the cakes with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour to help them maintain their shape.

While the crab cakes are chilling, prepare the cucumber relish by combining the cucumber, green onions, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Add the canola oil to a large skillet over medium heat; heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add the crab cakes and cook until golden on both sides and cooked through to center, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve the crab cakes topped with the cucumber relish and a dollop of sour cream.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes plus one hour chilling

Layered Spinach Pancakes

  • 1 c. pancake mix
  • 3/4 c. skim milk
  • 1 egg (or 1/4 c. egg substitute)
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 lb. fresh spinach leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped onion
  • 1 egg, beaten (or 1/4 c. egg substitute)
  • 1 c. low fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 T. chopped almonds

Preheat electric griddle to 400 degrees.

Combine all pancake ingredients in a large bowl. Stir until no lumps remain.

Spray the griddle lightly with cooking spray. Pour batter onto griddle to make 8 pancakes (about 4-5 inches in diameter). Cook until set, flipping once. Turn onto a warm plate. Set aside.

Combine spinach, onion, egg, cottage cheese and nutmeg in a large bowl. Mix until spinach is well coated.

Layer the pancakes and spinach mixture in two stacks on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray, beginning and ending with a pancake. Sprinkle with grated cheese and chopped almonds.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the stacks are firm and golden. Serve warm.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Turkey Taco Lasagna

  • 1 T. bacon fat or other cooking fat
  • 1 tsp. southwestern seasoning (choose your favorite variety)
  • 1 lb. diced, cooked turkey
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 c. chopped sweet pepper (multiple colors are nice)
  • 2/3 c. corn kernels
  • 1 (14 oz.) can salsa style roasted tomatoes/li>
  • 3 (8-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 c. grated cheese
  • 1/4 c. sliced green onions

In a medium skillet, heat the cooking fat until melted and hot. Add the seasoning, diced turkey, chopped onion, minced garlic, chopped pepper, and corn; stir well to evenly coat everything with the seasoning and fat. Add the tomatoes (undrained) and stir well again. Remove from the heat.

Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray and place an 8-inch flour tortilla in the bottom of the dish. Spoon about half of the turkey mixture over the tortilla and then carefully place another tortilla over the top of the turkey mixture in the pan. Spoon the remainder of the turkey mixture over that tortilla and place the final tortilla over the top of the turkey mixture. Sprinkle the top of the final tortilla evenly with the grated cheese and green onions.

Bake the assembled dish in an oven that's been preheated to 350° F for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Allow the dish to rest at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before slicing into servings.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

A trio of recipes calling for shredding carrots:

Winter Shrimp Salad

  • 6 c. mixed greens (I used escarole and radicchio, but I like bitter greens)
  • 2 Chioggia beets (you can use red or golden beets instead)
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1 tsp. Turkish seasoning or similar seasoning blend
  • Generous handful of coarsely chopped walnuts
  • Crumbled sharp cheese (I used Bessie's Blend

Arrange the greens in a large serving platter. Set aside.

Peel the beets and slice one into thin slices and arrange along the outside of the serving platter. Shred or spiralize the other beet and sprinkle it over the greens in the serving platter. Sprinkle half of the shredded carrot onto the platter and reserve the other half.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until pink, adding the seasoning near the end of cooking. Remove from the heat and add the walnuts to the skillet and stir to coat with the seasoning and warm through.

Add the crumbled cheese, warm shrimp and walnuts, and the remaining shredded carrots to the serving platter and serve immediately.

  • Yields: 2-3 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Slow Cooker Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 6 cups turkey broth
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1-2 tablespoons instant tapioca
  • 2-3 cups diced, cooked turkey
  • 1 cup shredded fresh carrots
  • 2 cups half & half
  • Additional water as needed
  • Fried onions, for garnish (optional)

Rinse the wild rice. Place the uncooked wild rice, onions, turkey broth, and poultry seasoning in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours. The rice should be soft. There will be extra liquid in the slow cooker; do not drain.

Gently stir in the instant tapioca and the diced turkey. Replace the lid and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Add the shredded carrots and the half & half. If the soup is too thick for your liking, thin it as desired with additional water. Season with salt & pepper as desired. Garnish with a sprinkle of fried onions as you're serving the soup, if desired.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 8 hours (mostly hands-off slow cooking time)

Spicy Peanut Noodles

  • 8 oz. spaghetti noodles, cooked according to package instructions
  • 1 T. canola oil
  • 1 c. chopped red cabbage
  • 1 c. coarsely shredded carrots
  • 8 oz. sliced shitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp. red curry paste
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1-2 T. rice wine
  • 2-3 green onions, thinly sliced

Boil your pasta water and prepare the pasta according to the package directions. Drain off the water.

While the pasta is being prepared, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, carrots, and mushrooms and stir-fry until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Toss with the hot pasta. Lid the pot while you prepare the sauce.

To make the sauce, combine the peanut butter, curry paste, soy sauce, and rice wine. If the sauce seems a little too thick, add more rice wine. Toss the sauce and the green onions with the pasta and veggies and serve immediately.

  • Yields: 2-3 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes

A quartet of recipes calling for cutting boneless, skinless chicken:

One Pan Spanish Chicken & Chorizo

  • 8 oz. soft chorizo
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into slices
  • 1 small onion, halved and cut into slices
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 medium-sized red potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • 1 T. smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp. chipotle powder (adjust to taste for spiciness)
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz. cherry tomatoes
  • 1-2 T. lemon juice, to taste

Remove the chorizo from its casing and fry over medium heat in a large, nonstick deep skillet or pan. Add the garlic, red pepper, and onion. Sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken thighs, potatoes, diced tomatoes, and seasonings (oregano through black pepper). Stir lightly, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and the potatoes are tender. Stir again.

Add the cherry tomatoes and lemon juice to the pan and cook an additional 5 minutes. Using a spoon, break the chicken pieces into small, bite-sized pieces. Serve it bowls with chunks of hearty bread to sop up the pan juices.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 40 minutes

Chicken Fajita Tacos

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 T. lime juice
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 8-12 mini sweet peppers, seeded and sliced
  • Flour tortillas (or corn tortillas for gluten free)

Place the chicken in a shallow dish. Whisk together the next nine ingredients (canola oil through lime juice) and pour over the chicken. Cover the dish and chill for 20 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Add the onions cook them until they are almost soft. Add the pepper strips; sear the peppers and onion until slightly charred. Remove pepper and onion mixture from the skillet and set aside.

In the same skillet, add the marinated chicken by using a slotted spoon to move the chicken to the skillet; discard the remaining marinade. Cook the chicken until fully cooked and browned on the outside; add the pepper/onion mixture back into the skillet with the chicken. Cook for 1 more minute or until the onions are hot and the mixture is combined well. Serve with corn or flour tortillas and any toppings you prefer.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Fall Bounty Chicken Salad

  • 1 tsp. cooking fat - I used bacon fat
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 ear of corn, shucked and sliced off the cob
  • ¼ cup chopped rainbow chard
  • 6 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4-6 mini sweet orange peppers, seeded and chopped
  • ¼ cup shelled edamame
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 8 oz. chopped romaine
  • ¼ cup light vinaigrette

Heat the cooking fat of your choice over medium-high heat in a nonstick skillet. When the cooking fat is hot/melted, add the chicken thighs and sear for 4 minutes per side, allowing a bit of caramelization to occur. Remove the thighs and let them rest briefly on a cutting board while you sauté the corn and chard.

Once the chicken is out of the pan, add the corn and rainbow chard. Turn off the heat and stir frequently to lightly sauté the vegetables. Coarsely chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and return to the skillet. Turn the stove to medium heat and continue cooking the chicken and veggies until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender and fragrant. Remove from the heat and set aside while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Toss the remaining ingredients in a large serving bowl to combine. Add the warm chicken and veggies and toss again. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Greek Style Fried Gnocchi

  • 2-3 T. olive oil
  • 1 package gnocchi (500g)
  • 2 tsp. Greek seasoning, lemon-pepper seasoning, or similar seasoning blend, divided
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 8 oz. halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 c. fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 c. halved, pitted kalamata olives

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the gnocchi and season generously with one teaspoon of your chosen seasoning blend. Cook, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes, until gnocchi is golden brown and slightly crispy. You may need to add additional olive oil if the pan gets too dry. Remove the gnocchi from the pan and set aside.

If needed, add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Add the chicken, season with the remaining one teaspoon of your chosen seasoning blend, and cook for 5-7 minutes, until cooked through.

Return the gnocchi to the pan along with the tomatoes, spinach, and olives. Stir 1-2 minutes, until the spinach is wilted. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 3-4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes